Newcastle head into the final game of the season with little to play for other than pride having sorted out those lingering relegation issues last weekend.
The visitors on the other hand have some pressure on them and must win the match if they are to ensure that they pip their North London rivals to that final Champions League spot.
Going back to that opening paragraph, I say we only have pride to play for but that is a bit unfair. With final positions between 10th and 17th open for occupancy depending on results elsewhere there is a hefty amount of additional prize money left to play for. With each place worth an additional £750,000 the coffers of the club could be swelled by additional £4.5 million, so to say only pride is at stake is maybe a bit harsh.
Mind you the most important thing is being in the Premier League next season. That £4.5m will pale into insignificance when you consider how much the new Premier League TV deal will be worth to clubs next season. With the bottom club next season set to receive roughly the same as what the league winners have received this season it gives a rough impression of the kind of riches on offer. But that’s for next season, first let’s try and finish this one off in style.
Tim Krul will be missing through injury whilst Rob Elliot misses out through suspension meaning that Steve Harper will get a chance to make a final appearance of his 20-year spell at United on home soil.
Sylvain Marveaux, Cheik Tiote and Steven Taylor are all available for selection although Moussa Sissoko, Massadio Haidara, Shola Ameobi and Davide Santon are unlikely to be involved. Ryan Taylor and Haris Vuckic remain on the long-term injury list although Sammy Ameobi and Shane Ferguson are available for selection after returning from loan spells at Middlesbrough and Birmingham respectively.
Olivier Giroud is likely to return to the starting line up after serving his suspension although Mikel Arteta will miss the game after picking up a calf strain in the midweek win over Wigan.
Earlier on in the season United saw themselves resoundingly beaten 7-3 at The Emirates so some amends needs to be made for that one.
However to do so United will have to overturn some dismal recent form against The Gunners. We haven’t beaten Arsenal at St James’ Park since 2005, even though the 4-4 draw a couple of seasons ago felt like a win!
There have been 80 games played between the two sides at St James’ Park. United have won 40, Arsenal 20 with the same amount as that ending up in a draw. Overall, in all competitions, home and away, there have been 164 meetings between the two teams with Arsenal just shading it by 65 wins to 62 for Newcastle with 37 draws making up the numbers.
Stats and facts:
Newcastle have won just one of the last 11 Premier League meetings between the two sides.
United have won only one game on the final day of a Premier League season in their previous 10 campaigns.
Alan Pardew’s side have won just three of the 19 games they have played against teams in the top half of the table.
Arsenal have the best away defensive record in the Premier League and have conceded just 14 league goals away from home this term.
The Gunners are looking for a fifth consecutive away league victory. The last time they managed such a feat was in 2004.
If only the second half of games counted, Arsene Wenger’s side would already have been crowned Premier League champions.
A lot has been made of Alan Pardew’s comments post-match last weekend where he said he wouldn’t care if we lost 4-0 tomorrow. Am I the only one who can see those comments as an expression of relief? Or has the tenure of the Silver one become so untenable that his comments are to be taken literally? Only when they can be used as a stick to beat him with seemingly as, if you recall, a lot of people say they can’t believe a word he says, so why treat this differently?
Newcastle must bow out with a good performance tomorrow even if a win could be beyond us. For the first time in weeks the pressure is off us and we can try and put on a show in front of our own fans and hopefully bury what has been a dismal season and put it behind us.
Another tepid performance though will just increase the pressure further and may tip the owner over the edge. Perhaps he might do something about Alan Pardew, although looking at pictures of him and Pardew at the training ground the other day it didn’t seem as though the manager had a ‘dead man walking’ look about him.
Bridges need to be built and whilst the manager is taking the bulk of the flak the players must also take some share of the blame and must respond accordingly. Collectively they got us over the line, just, and must show that things are going to change for the better.
Howay the lads!
Date: Sunday, 19th May, 2013
Time: 4pm – Live on Sky Sports 1
Venue: St James’ Park